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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lamb Meatballs (Kofte) with Yogurt Sauce and Herbs

For about three years, I've taken Turkish cooking classes at a local Turkish cultural center. Although my teachers haven't yet taught this, my attention was piqued when I saw it in the NYTimes food section recently. This dish has more garnishes than most Americans are accustomed to but they make it beautiful and truly tasty. Use them all or just some of them depending on what you have.


Lamb Meatballs (Kofte) with Yogurt Sauce and Herbs

Adapted from NYTimes Cooking
Serves 6

1 teas ground cumin
1 teas ground coriander
1/4 teas cinnamon 
pinch of ground cayenne
1 1/2 pds ground lamb, not too lean
1/2 c breadcrumbs
2 teas kosher salt, divided use
1/2 teas freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c finely diced red onion
3 eggs, divided use
2 T olive oil
1 c chicken broth
1 c plain, tart yogurt (if you use Greek yogurt, thin with milk and lemon juice)
1 T cornstarch, dissolved in 2 T water
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teas sumac
crushed red-pepper flakes, to taste
ground turmeric, for garnish, optional
3 T chopped mint
2 T chopped dill
cilantro sprigs

Place the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small skillet and toast over medium heat for a minute or so until they are fragrant. Set aside to cool a bit.

Combine the lamb, breadcrumbs, 1 1/2 teas salt (I used less), pepper, onion, and toasted spice mix with your hands in a large bowl. In a small bowl beat 2 of the eggs and add to the lamb mixture; mix until incorporated. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and as much as 24 hours.

When ready to cook, bring lamb mixture out of fridge and break off even 1-inch pieces. Roll into balls and set on a baking sheet. This will be easier if you dampen the palm of your hand. 

Heat oven to 225F. While preheating oven, brown the meatballs in a large skillet with the  olive oil heated over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs in a single layer until they brown on one side (3 minutes or so). Turn them over and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.  Do not overcrowd and cook in batches so the balls brown rather than steam. Place on baking sheet or cake pan lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil and set in oven to keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Pour excess oil from the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high; add the chicken broth. Heat to a simmer. Beat the remaining egg in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup and add the yogurt, 1/2 teas salt, and cornstarch mixture. Stir until well combined. While whisking constantly, gradually pour the yogurt mixture into the hot broth. Turn the heat down a bit and continue whisking until the yogurt is heated through. Try to keep the mixture from boiling since it can break or curdle. 

Pour the sauce over the meatballs. I liked doing this in individual serving bowls but it isn't necessary and probably too much work for a group larger than two. Drop the crumbled feta over the top and sprinkle with the sumac and crushed red pepper, if using. Garnish with pinches of turmeric powder and sprinkle with mint, dill, and cilantro and serve. This is good accompanied by rice, orzo, or pita bread. 

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